My daughter, L, is four years six months. When we lived in Illinois, for about a minute, I enrolled her in a Spanish immersion class run by a foreign language school specifically for children. During the 45 minute, Mommy & Me style class, she was invited through song and snack to parrot the teacher and speak Spanish. By the end of the series, her Spanish sounded more like words and she did better when I went to the bathroom – evidence that it was time to move to the next level. Unfortunately, it was also time for us to move to Texas.
This school, called Language Stars, was a commercial enterprise but it totally worked. The songs were all traditional children songs replaced with lessons on big vs small, hot vs cold, simple terms that children can understand. We got lessons to take home. I would post them on the refrigerator and use them during the week – I’d point to her hand and say “mano” and ask her to repeat. Sometimes L would, sometimes not. Did it help? I don’t know. I think it made it okay to have fun in the class, and of course L had no idea that I don’t speak actually Spanish. Or any other language besides English.
Learning a second language was a struggle for me. I got mediocre grades in the class. No matter how much I studied the best I could ever do was a B. I just don’t have the mind for memory. My husband was luckier and excelled in his French studies (and so much more). If she is anything like me, L is in big trouble. Now, I want to tell you that this is all about her future and being bilingual will open so many doors for her, etc. While this is definitely true, I confess that I also worry about the competition in public school. Let’s face it. The Asian kids are already being tutored in math at her age and will continue to do so through high school. Unless she’s an Einstein in hiding (possible, not probable), she’ll likely feel intimidated by the competition (I would!). I want to protect her, and speaking a second language is a good way to arm her with smarts early. And what I have been told again and again is that the earlier a child learns a language the easier it is for them. We are getting dangerously close to the end of Lillian’s prime language learning time.
Language Stars is only in Illinois. I passed on a couple of Spanish immersion preschools and picked a Montessori close to the house. Dallas has an International School where she can take a 1 hour class in French or Spanish. Of course, we would have to pay.
And this is the rub. Our financial situation is, let’s just say, less than stellar. We are facing a redesign of our budget to do more with less. We are also facing having to pay for a larger chunk of her current tuition at Montessori due to the economic slowdown and a certain family member no longer being able to help with tuition (we were grateful for what we got and J and I understand the situation completely). We are readjusting all over the place. Should we put ourselves out even more and spend the money on the class, thus feeling better that her brain is being developed at this important time before we run out of time, or just let it go and if she struggles with language then she does (and maybe she won’t)? Am I being weak-minded by worrying about how she will compete in highschool or smartly preparing her for the future? What would you do?